Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Doggone It, People Like Us
Bush reminds me of Stuart Smalley sometimes, in the way he keeps repeating his daily affirmation as if he's trying to talk himself into believing something. Like when he keeps insisting that torture "is not the way we do things in Amurrica." Today he changed it to "that is not the Amurrica I know." Well, the list of things George W. Bush doesn't know about America is lengthy--and one of the things he doesn't know is that we do indeed practice torture, and we have for a long time. In 1997, a website called Parascope.com, which is a philosophical cousin of Disinformation and the Memory Hole, used the Freedom of Information Act to force the release of a CIA torture manual, originally written in 1963, which explains why the United States is justified in using torture and how it should best be done.

When we think of "torture," we think of the Spanish Inquisition, or maybe those old Vincent Price movies, and instruments like thumbscrews, the rack, and the iron maiden. Even though we don't use those anymore--as far as anyone knows--what we do is plenty effective. Last October in The Atlantic, Mark Bowden described what we do, or what we have done for us by others, and the justifications for it.

Quote of the day: from an unnamed American official in Iraq, rejecting comparisons of American atrocities with those of Saddam Hussein: "We didn't put 300,000 in mass graves." That's true; we didn't. But we shouldn't have abused anybody, you see, because torture is not the way we do things in Amurrica.

Recommended reading: Sometimes the little things that slip through the cracks come bubbling up later on. In the current Weekly Review from Harper's, Roger D. Hodge reports that "last year the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control assigned only four employees to work on terrorist cases; in contrast, almost two dozen were investigating violations of the Cuban embargo. Since 1990, the office has opened 93 investigations into terrorist finances and 10,683 relating to Cuba." For our government to be worrying about Cuba seems decidedly old-school--until you realize what the fall of Castro's government might mean to the 2004 presidential election. It would virtually lock up Florida for Bush--a state in which John Kerry is currently competitive--and with another razor's-edge election looming, how huge is that?

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